Part I is Done

Well.

In one sense, I have achieved my goal for this project. I have completed a full story arc in this book. Wanderer boasts an impressive 115 pages and is far and above better than her inspiration Traveller, the characters are bigger badder bolder faster more philosophically correct? Yes.

Sixteen drafts.

To put this in perspective, the last two books I wrote–Horsemann and Chylde–were both well over 150 pages (Chylde was 177 while Horsemann clocked in at 181), one part, and took five drafts each. Total. This is only half a book and already it has taken me three times more drafts than either of them.

Balls.

This book has definitely been much more difficult than anything I have done before for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most pressing matter is that the characters in this book are characters that I had not used in over a year, and that when I did work with them, it was under the assumption I would never write with them again. As a result, none of them were very well developed, and I never got very comfortable writing with them. I also wrote two totally unrelated books in between Traveller and Wanderer, which only alienated me from the characters and concepts. It took a while to get back in the swing of things.

In addition to this, the research necessary for these books took–takes–a lot of time and effort. Before I can make believable characters based on philosophical concepts, I have to understand these concepts, and that in itself is a process that can take years. I do not have years. I have to understand these concepts well enough to make characters that capture the distinguishing characteristics of these philosophies in a likable manner (as likable as possible, anyway).

Then of course, there’s the research on the time periods themselves, which is fine when it’s an area with lots of records (1920s Paris), but not in areas where there aren’t (12th century Kongo), or in areas where facts are scarce but people have very set ideas on how they think it was likeĀ (1st century Jerusalem). I try and make things as historically accurate as possible, which means researching the big things (who was in charge at this time? Political intrigue? What were some major events?) and the little things (did they have 2-story buildings in the 1st century? What did Egyptian beer taste like? Did Romans wear underwear?).

But Part I is done! Huzzah! One full story arc, completed. One more to go. Thanks for reading, kids, and I’ll see you in the future.

Comments

  1. Since you said that your characters were not very well developed in your first book, did you do most of your character development in this book or did you go back to your first book and add in information? Where did you get your historical information from? Did you end up using mainly internet sources or books? Anyways congratulations on finishing part one.

  2. Thanks! To answer your questions, I basically came up with a way to develop the characters over the course of a series by planning outside the books. Essentially, each dynamic character has a set of “hoops” he has to jump through over the course of a book to end up with a certain level of development (so for example, in the first Harry Potter, Harry has to jump through the “hoops” of (a) realising he’s a wizard (b) going to Hogwarts (c) meeting his friends (d) meeting Draco etc. etc. etc. to become a character that’s ready to take on the challenges in Book 2). Because the characters weren’t set up very well in the last one, however, the characters weren’t ready to take on Wanderer and I ended up making them better-suited for it (but with no real explanation). My job now is to go back to Traveller (the first book) and edit it to make sure the characters have consistent development.
    Because the information I need is so sporadic, I have a pretty even distribution of books vs. internet sources. I like books better when I’m doing an overall look, especially journals, memoirs, and diaries (which tend to have a good look at the “personal” aspect of a particular area of time). When there’s something really specific I just need a quick answer for (what is the Roman system of currency, for example), then I would just go to the internet, cross-reference a few sites, and use that.

  3. Since your characters all subscribe to various philosophies, do you ever find them becoming too much like one-sided allegorical representations of their philosophies rather than actual people who just happen to wholeheartedly follow those philosophies? I ask because I know I, and most people nowadays, have many different philosophical influences and someone who is entirely driven by one philosophy sometimes feels alien to me. When you’re writing, do you feel the same about your own characters?

  4. Congratulations on finishing Part I!

    I’m very intrigued by your explanation to Colleen about character development. To me, your “hoops” metaphor is novel and surprisingly concrete. I like it a lot and shall ponder it further.

    Your reply to Colleen’s comment also makes me curious about how much revision you think Traveller will need. Will going back and editing to add space for character development going to be an “easy” endeavor? Or is it going to require significant rewriting?

    Congrats, again, and good luck with further writing!

  5. Woo! Well one thing at a time here guys

    In response to Greg: I try to make sure my characters are well-rounded in addition to being representative of their respective philosophies. In many ways this is fairly easy, as most philosophies don’t dictate how you’re supposed to act in EVERY situation. Stoics don’t have specific foods to worry about, for example, Cornelius can have a completely different food than say Peter or Legate Septimus. It’s a small example, but you bet the idea. A character can be a representation of Stoicism and yet still retain all the rounded-outness of a real person. In fact, one of the ideals of Stoicism is cosmopolitanism, which makes the Stoic characters–most of the main characters–very likable to us the modern Western reader. The Nationalist, on the other hand, has to be entirely driven by his philosophy by definition and he seems alien to us. That’s on purpose.
    Also, the characters themselves do not see themselves as philosophical concepts, or as adherents to a philosophy. They see themselves as people. They just happen to act in a manner that is my interpretation of the ideals of various schools of thought. I hope that makes sense…

  6. In response to Deborah: I’m glad you like the hoops analogy! It’s something I’ve noticed in various books and stories in my youth and I thought the consistency across various texts was interesting. If you want to see a really obvious “hoops” setup try any faerie tale: the prince can’t reach the princess until he has (a) met wizard (b) retrieved magic item (c) ridden flying horse (d) slain dragon (e) whatever.
    Basically in Traveller, Cornelius didn’t find the magic item, didn’t ride the flying horse, and didn’t meet the wizard, and now in Wanderer I’m expecting him to slay the dragon. I have to add in more character development, and that’s going to be a pain in the butt. All of this is going to be a pain in the butt. Think of it as performing surgery on a book. Like, heart bypass surgery. Argh.
    Thanks for the congrats! I’ll let you know when the work is over.